Tag Archives: traditional mexican remedies

Natural Healing — Pasiflora

Passiflora edulis

I’ve mentioned before the amazing relaxing tea blend I stumbled across that contained:

  • Jamaica (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
  • Flor de Azahar (citrus Aurantium)
  • Flor de Tila (Ternstroemia lineata)
  • Flor de Manita (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon)
  • Hojas de Naranjo (Citrus aurantium)
  • Melisa (Cedronella Mexicana)
  • Manzanilla (Matricaria chamomilla)
  • Pasiflora (Passiflora Ciliata) 
  • Hojas de Limón (citrus medica)
  • Yoloxochitl (Talauma Mexicana)
  • Rosa de Castilla (Rosa centifolia) 
  • Alhucema (Lavandula angustifolia) 

I’ve done some research on many of the ingredients and today I’d like to add to your knowledge about Pasiflora.

Pasiflora (Passionflower) was called coanenepilli (snake tongue) in Nahuatl because of the curvy membranous outgrowths’ resemblance. In Maya, this plant is known as Pochil or Kansel-ak. It was a traditional remedy for snakebites and fevers. When the Spanish missionaries arrived, they named this unique flower passionaria after the passion of Christ. In their eyes, the circle of membranes was representative of Christ’s crown of thorns. Dr. Nicholas Monardes called the plant granadilla in his book Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde Worlde because the small fruit resembled granadas (pomegranates) in his view. He recorded a remedy that used the juice from these fruits to relieve stomach pains. 

There are more than 600 species of passiflora, most of which are found in Mexico, Central and South America. Believe it or not, there is even a stinking passion flower (Passiflora foetida) that catches insects in the hairs on its bracts to eat, making it a protocarnivorous plant. This plant has been shown to be useful in treating inflammatory disease

passiflora incarnata

The fringed passion flower (Passiflora ciliata) is the variety most often used in teas as a sedative. The purple passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) is often grown for its fruit called maracuyá which has proven health benefits including the prevention of diabetic related complications

In herbal remedies still used in Mexico, pasiflora is often included in treatments of insomnia, anxiety, and nervousness including opiate withdrawal. Studies have shown that Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) extracts are effective sleep inducers as well useful in the treatment of anxiety and depression. And researchers have confired that at least one variety, the giant granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis), contains serotonin.

There have been reports of negative reactions to pasiflora such as nausea, tachycardia, and drowsiness, therefore care should be taken when using this plant, especially since so few varieties have been studied

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Natural Healing — Yerba de Sapo

Yerba de Sapo / Eryngium carlinae

One day, I was out foraging for wildflowers and came across the unique blue-tinged beauty above. I took a picture of it, but for the longest time couldn’t find anyone who could identify it. Several weeks later, the indigenous herb seller at the local tianguis (flea market) had a basket of these flowers dried. Delighted, I asked what the name of it was and what it was used for. He gave me the name “yerba de sapo” and with that, I was off on my investigations. 

Yerba de sapo translates as toad’s herb in English. The particular variety I encountered is Eryngium carlinae but there are more than 200 varieties in this species around the world. Some sources say this plant is blue thistle, others record it as button snakeroot or sea holly, and yet another source lists it name as Eryngo

The name in Spanish isn’t any less confusing. Yerba de sapo can also be spelled hierba de sapo, however, this is also the term used for Eryngium heterophyllum, another variety of the Eryngium genus with similar health uses. Other names include cabezona and cardón. 

It has been used since the time of the Aztecs as a restorative tonic, remedy for kidney problems, and weight loss aid. The mashed leaves were used to make a poultice for sore eyes. It was also used to regulate menstruation. 

For kidney ailments, a handful of yerba de sapo is boiled in a quart of water. Then one small glass is taken before breakfast. The herb guy recommended a handful of the herb should be boiled along with a bit of palo de brasil (Haematoxylum brasiletto) and palo azul (Eysenhardtia texana) in a tea drunk daily, to lower cholesterol levels and reduce weight.

A tea made from just the leaves is used to treat cough and whooping cough. The roots are edible and sometimes eaten toasted for urinary tract infections. The juiced roots are prescribed as an aphrodisiac, to improve urinary function or induce contractions. Combined with other herbs, it is used in a gonorrhea treatment. It is also used to treat kidney stones and as a cancer remedy. Yerba de sapo is often prescribed to allieviate angina pain and reduce arteriosclerosis.

Few scientific studies have been done on eryngium carlinae. However, those that have been conducted show promising results for its medicinal use. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of diabetes. It has a hypocholesterolemic effect, meaning that yes indeed, it will lower your cholesterol. It reduces lipid peroxidation in the brain, kidney, and liver while increasing the catalase activity having antioxidant properties. It is antibacterial and has been approved as a beverage with renoprotective effects, thus good for the kidneys. 

Eryngium carlinae grows in chalky or limestone soil and higher elevations. In fact, the specimen I came across during my foraging trip was in the mountains near El Cerro de Los Amoles in what had been a limestone evacuation area. The plant does not like to be moved, but it can be propagated with root cuttings. 

Precautions:

Because it can stimulate uterine contractions, yerba de sapo should never be taken during pregnancy. It should not be ingested for more than eight weeks so as not to cause kidney damage. Those that are allergic to fennel, dill, or celery may experience an allergic reaction. 

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Natural Healing–Jaripos

One day when I stopped to pick up the daily tortillas from my sister-in-law’s tortilleria, she handed me a bag of orange-red fruit and told me to make juice from it. So I did. It was deliciously sour and refreshing. To make the juice, let the berries soak in water until it turns a pinkish color. Then, strain, add sugar or honey to sweeten it and enjoy. 

Jaripos or Limillas

These little fruits are known as jaripos in Cerano, Guanajuato, but neighboring Puruándiro, Michoacan calls them limillas. Puruándiro has taken this fruit, from the Rhus microphylla shrub, into their heart so deeply that they have an annual festival in April celebrating la limilla, which can be used to flavor ice cream, atole, marmelade, artensenal bread and local brews. In English, this shrub is known as the littleleaf sumac or desert sumac. 

The Rhus species has over 250 varieties. Although little study has been done on Rhus microphylla, other varieties have anti fibrogenic, antifungal, antimalarial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antimutagenic, antithrombin, antitumorigenic, and antiviral properties. Additionally, flowering plants belonging to the Anacardiaceae family are cytotoxic, hypoglycaemic and leukopenic. 

Sumac berries contain malic acid, tannic acid, and gallic acid. Not all sumac varieties are edible. However, Rhus glabra, Rhus typhina, Rhus aromatica, Rhus copallina, Rhus integrifolia, Rhus microphylla, Rhus ovata and Rhus trilobata are.  Sumac berries which are safe to eat are red when ripe and covered in a soft fuzz

In Chihuahua, la limilla is used to treat leukemia. Rhus glabra, Smooth sumac, boiled fruit has been used as a treatment for painful menstruation. The roots and berries were made into a wash for sores. In Monterrey, Rhus Virens, Evergreen sumac, bark is boiled to make a tea used to treat diabetes. 

Rhus Trilobata produces a similar berry to the Rhus microphylla but is known as agrillo. The shrub has an intense smell which is the reason for one of its names, skunkbush. Among different indigenous groups, the bark, fruit, leaves, and roots were used medicinally traditionally. Rhus typhina, Staghorn sumac, leaves protect against oxidative damage

Hopefully, there will be more studies done in the future to ascertain the health benefits from the sumac berry. Meanwhile, while in season, I’ll enjoy an occasional glass of jaripo juice.

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